What are Prague’s priorities during its six-month EU presidency?

The last time the Czech Republic held the rotating EU presidency, in early 2009, the continent was still reeling from the global financial crisis and the portents of the European sovereign debt crisis were starting to appear.

On Friday, 1 July, it again takes up the presidency of the Council of the EU during another period of emergency.

In an exercise in crisis management, the Czech Republic aims to bolster regional cooperation in support of Ukraine and find some common solutions to spiking inflation and the ongoing energy crisis.

Yet according to the pessimists, when its presidency ends on 31 December these crises will look a lot worse.

For the country’s coalition government that entered office late last year, it’s a moment to prove its credentials as more pro-EU and westwards-looking than previous Czech administrations.

“The primary interest of our government is to carry out the presidency adequately to the contemporary needs and challenges that lie ahead of us,” Vaclav Smolka, the government’s press spokesman, told Euronews.

Preparations, though, weren’t helped by the previous Czech administration dramatically cutting the presidential budget available for the new coalition government.

It had to hand around €56 million for presidency costs, compared with more than €150 million it had in 2009.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala recently announced that his government found some additional funds to raise it to €93 million, but the presidency team’s money woes have caused problems in hiring and planning.

A foreign ministry official who asked not to be named said that preparation “could have been better” and that things have been “rushed”.

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